Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Jones v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Michigan

June 22, 2017

JEREMY PHILLIP JONES, Plaintiff-Appellee,
SHARON DENISE JONES, Defendant-Appellant.

         Barry Circuit Court Family Division LC No. 15-000542-DM

          Before: Swartzle, P.J., and Saad and O'Connell, JJ.

          SAAD, J.

         Defendant appeals the judgment of divorce that the trial court entered. This case raises an issue of first impression of whether the Revocation of Paternity Act (RPA), MCL 722.1431 et seq., is applicable to a child born through in vitro fertilization (IVF). For the reasons provided herein, we hold that the RPA does apply in these circumstances, and we affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. BASIC FACTS

         The parties' testimony was somewhat unclear regarding specific dates. Defendant and plaintiff married in 1998. On November 2, 2001, their son, DJ, was born. The parties lived together until approximately 2008, with the exception of one month when defendant and DJ lived apart from plaintiff. Around 2008, plaintiff moved to Bridgman in Berrien County to be closer to the Native American tribe to which he belonged, and defendant and DJ moved to Detroit. The parties maintained separate residences, but plaintiff would visit defendant approximately once a week through 2012 or 2014.

         On November 18, 2013, defendant gave birth to a daughter, AJ, conceived by using assisted reproductive technology (ART)-in particular, IVF. The parties disputed the extent of plaintiff's involvement in AJ's conception. Plaintiff testified that he revoked his consent to the procedures in January 2010. Though he may not have provided defendant with a copy of the revocation, he testified that defendant was aware of his revocation. Plaintiff further testified that AJ's conception involved an anonymous sperm donor. Although plaintiff conceded to driving defendant to a few appointments, he believed that these appointments were for other purposes, such as harvesting eggs for future use, rather than defendant actively attempting to conceive a child.

         In 2015, plaintiff filed the instant suit for divorce. Plaintiff alleged that AJ was born out of wedlock and that, consequently, he was not AJ's legal father. The parties also disputed the custody and support of DJ. During trial, the parties entered into a settlement, which stipulated that plaintiff was not AJ's legal father and the trial court accepted the stipulation.[1]

         II. ANALYSIS


         On appeal, defendant argues that the trial court erred when it found that plaintiff was not AJ's legal father. We disagree.

         Ordinarily, the fact that a party entered into a settlement precludes appellate review. See Chapdelaine v Sochocki, 247 Mich.App. 167, 177; 635 N.W.2d 339 (2001) ("A party cannot stipulate a matter and then argue on appeal that the resultant action was error."). However, our courts have limited the enforcement of settlement agreements when they concern the well-being of children. See Koron v Melendy, 207 Mich.App. 188, 191; 523 N.W.2d 870 (1994) (stating that a trial court is not bound to accept the parties' agreement to child custody but can accept it if it is in the child's best interests); Johns v Johns, 178 Mich.App. 101, 106; 443 N.W.2d 446 (1989) (holding that plaintiff father who had acted as father to the children at issue for 15 years could not disclaim paternity via stipulation during a custody battle). By revoking plaintiff's paternity, the settlement agreement at issue completely eliminates any right AJ may have to seek support from plaintiff. Accordingly, despite the parties' settlement agreement, we will analyze whether the trial court properly terminated plaintiff's paternity under the RPA.

         This Court reviews a trial court's factual findings in proceedings under the RPA for clear error. Demski v Petlick, 309 Mich.App. 404, 431; 873 N.W.2d 596 (2015). "The trial court has committed clear error when this Court is definitely and firmly convinced that it made a mistake." Id. (quotation marks and citation omitted). This Court reviews de novo the interpretation and application of statutory provisions. Parks v Parks, 304 Mich.App. 232, 237; 850 N.W.2d 595 (2014).

         "When interpreting a statute, a court must give effect [to] the Legislature's intent." Id. To determine the legislative intent, this Court first looks to the language of the statute itself and, if the language is unambiguous, "it must be enforced as written." Title Office, Inc v Van Buren Co Treasurer, 469 Mich. 516, 519; 676 N.W.2d 207 (2004) (quotation marks and citation omitted). Words of statutes are given their plain and ordinary meanings, while legal terms are construed according to their legal meanings. Lech v Huntmore Estates Condo Ass'n (On Remand), 315 Mich.App. 288, 290; 890 N.W.2d 378 (2016). Statutes must be read as a whole, and this Court may not read statutory provisions in isolation. Milot v Dep't of Transp, 318 Mich.App. 272, 278; __N.W.2d__(2016).

         The RPA provides the procedures for courts to determine the paternity of children in certain situations. Although defendant argues that the RPA is not the proper vehicle by which to determine AJ's paternity, the RPA expressly "governs an action to determine that a presumed father is not a child's father, " MCL 722.1435(4), and this is the precise situation before us. The RPA defines a presumed father as "a man who is presumed to be the child's father by virtue of his marriage to the child's mother at the time of the child's conception or birth." MCL 722.1433(e). Indeed, presuming paternity by the husband when a married couple has undergone ART to conceive is not contrary to the purpose of the RPA. In fact, it is consistent with the Legislature's general policy of recognizing the legitimacy of a child born through ART to a married couple. See, e.g., MCL 333.2824(6); MCL 700.2114(1)(a). Thus, as a starting point, plaintiff is the presumed father by virtue of his marriage to defendant at the time AJ was conceived and born, and the RPA is indeed the statute that applies to determine paternity.

         The RPA provides that a presumed father who files for divorce may be declared to not ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.